Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Friday, May 25, 2007

This ‘Funky Friday’s Free-For-All’ Malarkey: It’s Just Another Name For An Interweb Mash-Up Baloohaha Thingy, Isn’t It?

Erm, yes. Moving swiftly on … the RTE Guide was less kind than it might have been to Val McDermid’s The Grave Tattoo, claiming that, “the basic premise is good … but there are too many loose ends and sub-plots that never quite get off the ground.” Still, the Raith Rovers fan will always have the Portico Prize AND the Theakston's Old Perculier Crime Novel of the Year award she won for The Grave Tattoo to sustain her … Unsurprisingly, Brian McGilloway’s Borderlands gets the 21-gun salute from Shotsmag: “Borderlands is a highly tense, taut debut novel with the same intensity one has come to expect from established authors.” Which is nice … Staying with Shotsmag, they’re getting to know Ken Bruen (left) quite well, apparently: “Bruen’s writing has a beguiling quality, written in very intimate first person … If you like your crime thrillers to challenge the way you think, then Bruen’s your man.” And staying with all things Bruen, Murderati has his ‘essay’ A Tale of Two Childhoods, which contains the deliciously downbeat kiss-off to the rich ‘n’ famous, “If you want to know what God thinks of money, look who he gave it to.” Ooooh, get him … John Connolly has had his prints taken over at Rap Sheet, where they’re asking a host of writers what crime novel they think has been most unjustly ignored over the years. Ross Macdonald’s The Chill, says John: “At the risk of being heretical, Macdonald was a much better novelist than Chandler, who was a flashier writer … read The Chill not only for its exquisite plotting and elegant, measured prose, but for the empathy, humanity and sheer generosity of spirit that infuses every page.” Couldn’t agree more … Finally, we got information, man, new shit has, uh, come to light … yep, it’s a double-whammy for Coen Brothers fans: not only did Ethan (right) and Joel's (righter) movie of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men get les reviews raves at Cannes and finally blot out the blight that was The Ladykillers, but the Guardian brings news of a Coen Brothers-Working Title tie-in, Burn After Reading, Working Title being the company who worked on Fargo and The Big Lebowski (“Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”). Joy untrammelled, eh? Finally-finally, here's aspiring author Bernard Black / Dylan Moran of Black Books (below), not really coming to terms with his latest rejection letter. Altogether now: "Piss-midget!" And that’s all for another week, folks: have a good weekend and y’all come back now, y’hear?

The Embiggened O # 937: All We Hear Is Radio Ga-Ga. And Trumpets

It’s been said more than once that Crime Always Pays has a wonderful face for radio, and Ireland’s lit-crit glam queen and Phantom FM presenter Nadine O’Regan (left) is to test the theory yet again. The Kiosk is set to review our humble offering The Big O live on air this coming Saturday, May 26, kicking off at 11am, which is why we’re taking ourselves off to the nearest sealed bunker for the hour in question. If you’re crazy enough to be up at that kind of ungodly hour on a weekend, you can listen in on-line here …


’Twas a sordid ‘n’ shameful dalliance and perhaps it’s best that the twisted relationship between crime fiction and the Dublin Writers’ Festival (June 13-17) has ended, for the sake of the kids if nothing else. Mind you, the kids are all growed up now and well capable of looking after themselves – skulking around Eason’s last week, Crime Always Pays counted nine Irish crime fiction authors on the new release wall, as compared with six Irish chick lit writers. Has Irish crime fiction reached some kind of tipping point? Is it time for a Crime Writers Ireland association thingymabob? Only time, that notorious tittle-tattler, will tell … Elsewhere on the festival circuit, Ruth Dudley ‘Do-Wrong’ Edwards (left) of Murdering Americans fame will very probably be a model of decorous restraint when she debates ‘Multi Cultural Ireland – Is There A Limit To Tolerance?’ with Brian Lenihan, TD, and Anna Lo, MLA, on Saturday, June 2, at the Goldsmith International Literary Festival, while John Blandville will be able to take a break from all that pesky talk of crime fiction scribbling when he fetches up at the John Hewitt International Summer School in the company of Fintan O’Toole, TP Flanagan and Kenneth Bloomfield. Blandville (right), who is quickly becoming notorious among the crime writing cognoscenti for his – to put it politely – disdainful attitude to crime fiction and the grubby urchins who read it, should find himself right at home in the rarefied atmosphere of Armagh’s Market Place Theatre from July 23rd to the 27th. Which is nice …

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: The Wire (HBO)

Possibly the best drama series I've ever watched, including The Sopranos. Set in Baltimore, Maryland, The Wire is a police drama in name only. There are no good or bad guys; every character is compromised and yet fully realised. Its link to crime fiction is deliberate, the producers hiring Denis Lehane, Richard Price and George Pelecanos (who also produces) to write episodes, but in the way of the best of crime fiction, it's about a lot more than crime. David Simon, creator and executive producer, puts it thus: "The American obsession with police procedural and crime drama usually only allows for villains –in large part black or brown – who exist as foils, to be pursued and destroyed by cop heroes. We're addressing ourselves to where the villains actually come from, and whether we have any right to regard them as somehow less human than the rest of us." Hailed by virtually every critic of note as brilliant (the San Francisco Chronicle calls it 'broadcast literature' and the Guardian compares it in scope and quality to Dickens and Zola), The Wire is must-see viewing for any serious readers of crime fiction. There’s a fifth and final series in production, so get the DVD box sets: start with series one and figure on taking a sick day or two. It's just that good.– Kevin McCarthy

Speed Dating With Destiny: Tony Herbert Cocks A Snook

Corks! Not only did Speed Dating, which stars Hugh O’Conor (right), scoop the Best Feature at the Malibu International Film Festival earlier this month, it’s also yoinked the Audience Award at both the European Independent Film Festival in Paris AND the Indianapolis International Film Festival. And this “despite receiving some damning reviews at home,” sniffs Martina Nee at Galway First, going on to suggest that perhaps the Irish film critics are “just a bit too picky”. Mmm, stern stuff. And it’s true, Irish movie critics often demand adequate acting, a cohesive script, decent editing and direction that has, well, a direction. The greedy buggers, eh? The Crime Always Pays verdict? We thought it was a crock. But hey, what do we know? We’re not even from Indianapolis.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Making Hay: Barclay, Bateman Hit The Festival Circuit

Nice work if you can get it, etc. - the ravishing Alex Barclay (right) and the Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman are the Irish representatives on the Crimewave panel (Allan Guthrie also appears) at the Guardian-sponsored Hay Festival, which runs from May 24 to June 3. It's A Crime has the truncated running list, but you can wade in up to your oxters in talking writers (lo! 'tis a paradox!) over at the official Hay Festival site. Oh, and while you're here, check out Alex's Top Ten Psychological Thrillers - she picks Jim Thompson at numero uno. Which is nice ...

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 419: Sam Millar

Yep, it's rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire pick-'n'-mix Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...

What crime novel would you most like to have written?
No Country For Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy. That book has put me into more arguments with my publisher for failing deadlines. I keep rereading it and rereading it and …
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Nelson DeMille. A master storyteller. Fluent and effortless. Oh, and Marvel comics and Stan Lee.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Getting a phone call from my agent in New York informing me that Warner Brothers had bought the rights to On The Brinks. I had about ten quid left in my bank account (now I have even less).
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Anything by Maeve Binchy. I think all her books are a crime.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
On The Brinks.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
People thinking I’m rich / People thinking I’m rich.
Why does John Banville use a pseudonym for writing crime?
Why do men wear women’s clothing? You would have to ask him that. If he tells you, please let me know. Perhaps he wants to be a tough guy, and slug it out with the rest of us losers in the down and dirty ring of crime writing, without his legion of adoring fans finding out that he’s a roughneck underneath all that suave complexity. Anyway, I guess it’s better than using a condom …
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Should Be Banned (so says Ian Paisley).

Sam Millar’s Darkness of the Bones is available in all good bookshops, and most of the bog-standard ones too

This Week We're Reading ... Running Mates and Pulp Culture

At a twist per page, Garbhan Downey’s crackerjack political comedy-thriller Running Mates has roughly 291 twists (although some of them, if we’re being academic about it, actually qualify as turns) – the words ‘Hiaasen’ and ‘Carl’ spring to mind in no particular order, as do the words ‘Bateman’ and ‘Bateman’ (you’re not allowed call him Colin anymore, according to a Headline fatwa). The story? A Derry newspaper editor and a stunning-if-profane judge fall out of the nuptial bed and into a presidential race down South, with a CSI-style body count along the way. “Downey's pace, wit and fresh eye on the body politic of Ireland make for a great read,” claims one enlightened soul over on Amazon … Meanwhile, Woody Haut’s Pulp Culture and The Cold War is a more sober affair, despite the flamboyant cover, but it’s a fact-tastic take on “the seminal crime novels of the Forties and Fifties, featuring the work of two dozen or so pulp novelists, including Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson and Charles Willeford, whose dicks decode the culture as well as investigate the crime,” says the Richmond Review. Okay, but is it any good? Well, we loved it … but then, we like cold baked-bean sandwiches too, so what do we know?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Thick Plottens: Yep, 'Tis The Mid-Week Interweb Mash-Up Baloohaha Thingy

Good vibes from the Seattle Times, people - "The book's plot and pacing are rock-solid, but its tender characterizations — particularly the deepening relationship between Ryan and his brainy, tough female partner — are what set it apart," says Adam Woog of Tana French's In The Woods, while Declan Hughes' The Color of Blood "is a classic hard-boiled detective story, adding an Irish twist to the archetypal Chandler/ Macdonald style." Mmmm, lovely. Hughes also gets a big-up from Marilyn Stasio in the New York Times in a review we missed from last month, to wit: "The overheated theatrics are a proper fit for his tough-guy hero, whose stern moral code and haunted personal history lend credibility to Hughes’s recurring theme of 'the sins of the fathers." Peachy. Adrian McKinty's The Bloomsday Dead gets a mention too - "Bullets fly and Joycean literary references ricochet everywhere as Forsythe tries to get his bearings in a Belfast so politically stable and yet so redolent of the evil in its violent past that he can’t wait to get out of town" - as does Ken Bruen for Priest: "You can’t expect much in the way of conventional sleuthing from this tormented hero, but there’s music in his lament for the corruption of innocence and the loss of faith." Gorgeous. And while we're on the topic of Bruen, here's an interview in Village you might have missed from last year, in which he goes all wibbly-wobbly-wonder about the prospects for Irish crime fiction: "I think if the world survives another five or 10 years, crime fiction will be huge here in Ireland. It'll be the new chick lit, God forgive me." The boy Bruen in day-glo pink covers? Mmmmmkay ...

Lost Classics # 113: The Polling of the Dead by John M. Kelly

"But you know damned well who will be the gainers in the end. Not the politicians like myself, who have to pike the dung. The real winners will be the suffering Irish people. For once." A timely number, given that the Irish nation is charging off to the polls to vote early and often tomorrow, John M. Kelly's (right) The Polling of the Dead (1993) is a cracking thriller a la Ross Macdonald which incorporates ex-Nazi fugitives from justice as part of its backstory. Set in 1960s Dublin, it's a first-person narration by a political Mr Fixit, Redmond Byrne, who goes in search of answers when his friend and Opposition candidate, Daithi Flood, is found dead at the bottom of a rubbish chute in the run-up to polling day. Beautifully written - as you might expect from a man who also wrote A Short History of Western Legal Theory (OUP) and the standard work on the Irish Constitution - it also showcases a Sahara-dry wit and an appreciation of Chandler, Macdonald et al, all delivered in a salty Irish vernacular. Discovered after his untimely death in 1991, this was the former Cabinet Minister and Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach's second venture into crime fiction (he published Matters of Honour (1964) as 'John Boyle'), and deserves an immediate reprint. Over to you, publishing folk ...

The Ultimate Good Spoof: Richard Ford Graces The Bored, Sorry, Boards

As part of the 'Abbey Talks ...' season, Richard Ford (right) will swing by The Abbey on June 6 to do a reading, shoot the shit about scribbling and very probably the plug the bejasus out of his latest, The Lay of the Land. We'll be there, if only to gag Critical Mick's inevitable heckling, and also to ask why the hell ol' Fordie doesn't write more novels along the lines of The Ultimate Good Luck and quit bugging us with all that meaningful shite about sportswriters and their mid-life crises. Tickets come free but you'll need to book in advance: 01 - 8787222.

Et Tu, Carson? Betrayal Hits The Streets

A busy, busy time for Paul Carson, folks: not only has he just released Betrayal - 'a fast-paced, white-knuckle thriller', according to the publisher's blurbio, about a chief medical officer kidnapped as part of an international conspiracy centring on the prison where he works - but Ambush (2003) has been sold Stateside, to Daniela Rapp at St Martin's. And so off Ambush goes, soaring its merry way through the ether with Critical Mick's words wafting beneath its wings, to wit: "Rather than getting trapped in economy class with a book no more savory than airline food, Critical Mick says pick up Gene Kerrigan's The Midnight Choir, Hugo Hamilton's Headbanger, or maybe Alex Barclay's Darkhouse. Or Paul Carson's Cold Steel - all more filling and tasty than Ambush." Mmmmkay, not quite the reaction we were looking for. Why not read an extract from Ambush and make up your own minds, folks?

Guns, Gams And Gratitude: Dashiell Hammett Remembered

"I've been as bad an influence on American literature as anyone I can think of," Dashiell Hammett once said, but there's a writer or twenty over at January Magazine who begs to differ. "I think there is the truth of the streets in Hammett that Chandler never got to," says Ed Gorman, somewhat controversially, while, "the writing pummelled me," says our own Ken Bruen of his first Hammett experience, The Dain Curse. Others contributing include George Pelecanos, Bill Crider, Peter Robinson and Ray Banks, who likes to think of Hammett "as one of the first great growlers of crime fiction." Which is nice ...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lights, Camera, Anton

A movie to watch out for, folks - set in the bandit country of Cavan during the 1970s against a backdrop of Norn Iron's 'Troubles', Anton is a gritty thriller about a good man doing bad things for all the right reasons. Anthony Fox (right) wrote the script, and also stars, Graham Cantwell directs, while Gerard McSorley chips in with - shock-horror, etc. - a borderline psycho portrait of a bent copper. We should probably 'fess up and say that we've been known on occasion to drink a tincture of dry sherry with the producer, Pat McArdle, but we saw the extended thriller of this one a few months ago and it looks the business - we're thinking it might just be the best Irish crime movie since I Went Down, and the movie that puts a smidge of credibility back into the Irish film industry. Yep, it looks that good ... The trailer should be ready to run any day now, so stay in touch and we'll keep you posted.

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 419: Seamus Smyth

Yep, it's rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire pick-'n'-mix Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...

What crime novel would you most like to have written?
The one that sold most.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
My bank statements, when there’s money enough to indulge myself in them.
Most satisfying writing moment?
I’ve never written anything I was satisfied with.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
I like Ken Bruen’s way with a pen.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Wish I knew. It would mean I’ve read a ‘great’ book.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Punching the keys and a story not turning up.
Why does John Banville use a pseudonym for writing crime?
I used a pseudonym once, because I didn’t want anyone to know I wrote it.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
It never brags.

Seamus Smyth’s Quinn is a stone-cold classic. Fact.

The Embiggened O # 1,007: In Which We Discover It's Actually Possible To Bust A Lung Blowing Your Own Trumpet

We're feeling the love this week, people, and from 'Ireland's biggest-selling weekly magazine' (™) the RTE Guide at that. The gist of their review of The Big O runs thusly: "A smart, cynical, twist-tastic romp about a disparate group of good, bad and ugly types that is just crying out for a movie treatment ... Message to Paddy Breathnach: read this and go eat Hollywood." Paddy Breathnach? Y'mean Paddy Breathnach of I Went Down fame? Criminy! They still haven't hoisted it onto the books section of the RTE website yet, but we're not greedy - we're just going to bask in the moment. Like, c'mon, it was the Guide fer Chrissakes ...

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (Picador)

All paperback editions of Christine Falls carry little blue stickers reminding you that it was written by Man Booker winner John Banville. To ensure he doesn’t alienate his core fan base? Because chances are they’ll be pretty alienated once they get around to reading it. The novel revolves around the joyless Quirke, a hard-drinking, cynical pathologist with a screwed-up personal life – so far, so apposite for the protagonist of a crime novel. In a trail that begins with Quirke’s own family, when his brother-in-law, an obstetrician, changes the records pertaining to the death of a girl called Christine Falls, Quirke uncovers a baby smuggling operation that ends with high-ranking Catholic clergy in Boston. Banville’s descriptive and atmosphere-creating faculties are utilised well; the dreariness, repression and theocracy of 1950s Dublin are deftly drawn. However, as a crime novel, it falls short on story development and pace and relies on clich├ęs, pat answers and two-dimensional characters to move the plot along. Baby smuggling in ’50’s Ireland could have been fantastic idea for a novel but it’s a pity that Banville chose to explore it through this genre - quick-moving plots and believable baddies aren’t his forte. But kudos for trying.- Claire Coughlan

The Bateman Cometh

The Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman, aka Bateman (his publishers have dropped the boring old 'Colin' bit, apparently), reads from his latest, I Predict A Riot ("bursting with intrigue, extortion, greed, love, murder and carrot cake") at the Marketplace Theatre in Armagh on Friday, May 25. The gig kicks off at 8pm, Bateman fiends - we predict a sizeable turnout, which will very probably include nubile young ladies throwing their nether garments at The Batemeister. As for the early reviews: "... an extraordinary mix of plots and characters begging to be described as colourful, zany, absurd and surreal. Comparisons with Carl Hiaasen are not inappropriate," says Marcel Berlins at The Times. Which is nicer than nice ...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Monday Review / Interweb Mash-Up Super-Baloohaha

Kind words yet again for Irish crime writers from Marilyn Stasio at the New York Times: "No one brings down the temple with more outrageous wit and style than Ruth Dudley Edwards," she says of Murdering Americans, while Tana French (right) is celebrated for In The Woods' 'vivid' scene-setting and the 'lyrical ferocity of her writing'. Meanwhile, Eurocrime comes over all unnecessary about Brian McGilloway's Borderlands, the gist of which runneth, "Small but perfectly formed, this little gem of a book ... is excellent and well-written." In other news, John Boyne scooped the Children's Books Ireland Bisto Book of the Year to absolutely no one's surprise (insert your own 'gravy train' gag here), while Ever The Idealist has declared John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things (left) the best novel he has ever read, like, ever: "John Connolly manages to combine outrageous yet believable fantasy with horrific murders while he entertains you with a story that holds you in thrall." Sweetness incarnate, say we. Moving swiftly on ... Glen Dimplex and the Irish Writers' Centre have announced that the Glen Dimplex New Writers' Awards 2007 will have a total prize fund of €45,000, divided across five categories, the awards going to the best first book published in the last year in Ireland and the UK ... Hang about - have we introduced you to Garbhan Downey yet? Hold on there while the Sunday Business Post's Andrew Lynch stops chatting him up and we'll make with the necessaries ... Finally, radiofreeubu gives a big shout-out to the Millipede Press for re-publishing David Goodis' Street of No Return (right), which will make a suitably sordid companion piece to Hard Case Crime's re-publication of Goodis' The Wounded and the Slain. And remember - Goodis things happen to Goodis people, folks ... you can't say you haven't been warned.

Politically Incorrect Latest: Dudley Do-Wrong Does It Again!

Crumbs! First she starts Murdering Americans, now she's having a go at the 'literary condescenders'. She'll be considering the lilies next ... Ruth Dudley Edwards had a whole lot of fun at the expense of the politically correct and literary anal-retentives over at The Telegraph, to wit:
"There are many consolations for those of us consigned to the category of genre fiction, not least that we are much more popular than our self-consciously literary condescenders. I eschew the company of literary writers; I adore the crime writers. We laugh at the pretensions of those who think themselves our betters and we enjoy each other because our backgrounds and preoccupations are so disparate and therefore so interesting. We include, among our number, vets and spies and solicitors and teachers and nurses and linguists and journalists and erstwhile prostitutes, criminals and murderers."
Erm, how come we haven't run into any of these 'erstwhile' nurses then, eh? For more of the same, jump over to The Telegraph ... but beware, fancy-pants literary-types, Ruth ain't taking no prisoners.

The Boyne In The Striped Pyjama Party

'Twas as inevitable as death 'n' taxes - John Boyne's runaway crossover smash, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, is getting the silver screen treatment. Miramax have commenced filming in Hungary, with Mark Herman (Little Voices, Hope Springs) adapting and directing. David Thewlis stars as the 'Out With' concentration camp commander, with young Asa Butterfield debuting as his son, Bruno, and Jack Scanlon in the eponymous role. As for the killjoys who castigated the book for not conforming to their perception of what a novel about the camps should be - Boyne's a talented writer, people, and if he'd wanted to ape Primo Levi, he could have done it in his sleep.

Hmmmm ... The Mysterious Affair Of The Turned-Down Turndown, You Say?

We're blaming John 'Sweary Mary' Connolly (right) - according to Books Reading Ideas, the Ritz Carlton chain had the bright idea of offering a paperback of short stories, Turndown Tales, as part of its 'turndown' service, with Connolly, Jodie Picoult and Susan Isaacs among the contributors.
"Then came the problem," says the New York Times: "the book’s contents turned out to be a tad rougher than, say, the Gideon Bible, and at the last minute, the Ritz started getting cold feet. 'They submitted the manuscript and we rejected it,' said Julia Gajcak, vice president for marketing and communications of Ritz-Carlton. 'There were some language issues, and there was some racy content.' By racy content they meant bad parenting, deaths of family members and swearing, which were a bit too abundant for the hotel's taste."
The collection, suitably purged of 'racy' material, will be available in Ritz Carlton rooms this summer. We'd love to include John Connolly's f#%king racy response to the censorship, but unfortunately this is a family blog ...

Flick Lit # 312 : Stray Dogs / U-Turn

I just wanted to get out, that’s all.” John Ridley / Stray Dogs
Fleeced in a Vegas poker sting, owing big, already down two fingers, John Stewart figures his luck can’t get any worse. Then his classic ’64 Mustang blows a radiator hose on the outskirts of Sierra, Nevada, a dust-bowl hell-hole populated with freaks, geeks, blind Indians and corrupt cops … A one-off throwback which turns and twists like an itchy scorpion riding a switchback, Stray Dogs (1997) deserves a place in the pantheon on the basis that John Stewart is arguably the unluckiest man in the history of the crime novel. His luck isn’t so much bad as evil. Ripped off by the town’s mechanic, then robbed while buying a soda, he sees the money scraped up to pay off his debts vaporised in a shot-gun blast. Cue a seductive femme fatale, Grace, and then her husband, Jake; first he, then she, propositions John with offers to kill the other …
Ridley shopped Stray Dogs around as a novel but eventually rewrote the story as a movie script. Enter Oliver Stone. He decided to shoot Stray Dogs as a homage to Sam Peckinpah’s post-noir classic Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) and generally re-define the parameters of neo-noir in the process. The result was a brooding, sweltering, low-fi masterpiece. The cast alone was worth the price of admission – Sean Penn as Stewart, Nick Nolte as Jake, and a smouldering Jennifer Lopez as his young Indian bride Grace. The supporting characters included Billy Bob Thornton, Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes, Bo Hopkins, Jon Voight and Powers Boothe. With Ennio Morricone providing the cheesy mock-Spaghetti Western soundtrack, the cast chewed up and spat out the scenery along with the lurid dialogue. But Stone’s cinematography represents serious business indeed. Building on the excesses of Natural Born Killers, Stone jump-cuts, scissor-edits, inserts black-and-white stock, deploys hand-held shots, bleached out sequences, time-lapse effects and hallucinogenic montage. The overall effect is one of extreme dislocation that reflects the traumatised thought process of Penn’s sleazy, tortured anti-hero. Shot on a schedule of 42 days, Stray Dogs hit a hitch when Stone discovered that Ridley was planning on publishing the novel before the movie hit the screens. Cue wrangles, bitterness, name-changes for characters and the movie itself, which finally, tortuously, evolved into U-Turn. No doubt John Stewart would have sympathised.- Michael McGowan

We Like To Call Her Elsa: Siobhan Dowd Crowned Sunday Times Literary Lion

Three cheers, two stools and a resounding huzzah for Siobhan Dowd (right), nominated a 'literary lion for the future' in yesterday's Sunday Times on the basis of A Swift Pure Cry, which also scooped the Eilis Dillon award at last week's CBI Bisto Book of the Year Awards. The novel is set in Ireland in the 1980s and based on the unsolved 'Kerry babies' case and the tragic death of Ann Lovett, an Irish teenager who died giving birth in squalid circumstances. See Siobhan in person at the Children's Books Ireland Summer School for Adults on May 26th and 27th, where she's scheduled to give a talk on "Notions of Nationhood" at Sunday's closing session in Pearse Street Library, Dublin 2. Or you could just sit there and read an extract from the novel. Don't worry, we won't judge you ...